For as much as baseball hasn’t changed since its beginning there are still changes being made every year that question how the game is being played and how new antics can give a team a further edge. The bullpen usage has been a hot topic of the 2016 MLB postseason with relievers being tossed into situations that they perhaps had not been familiar with in the regular season.
Kenley Jansen and Andrew Miller are the two relievers that have seemed to get the most buzz this postseason pitching in unique and unfamiliar occasions. In 21.1 innings pitched this postseason the two have combined for giving up just four earned runs and have totaled 40 strikeouts. The term “shortening the game” in baseball has come up in recent years after last year’s World Series and the dominant Yankees bullpen that started this year with the likes of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
The two teams looking to bring a World Series ring back to their cities can give credit to dominant pens for paving the way into postseason success. The question that has arisen about bullpen usage is one that may be jumping the gun in terms of how the way bullpens will be used in the future. In the playoffs if a starter gives up a three run homer in the third inning odds are the next base runner he puts on will be his last. Obviously managers are much more trigger happy in going to their pens in playoffs, but will this really transition into the regular season? In a dramatic end to game 5 of the NLCS Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in Clayton Kershaw to close out the 9th inning, but before that left in Kenley Jansen in for 2.1 innings and 51 pitches. It’s pretty obvious to say that no closer would be left in a game for 51 pitches unless the manager wants an unfriendly meeting with his general manager the next morning. Andrew Miller is perhaps an even more deadly weapon out of the bullpen because of his experience in the 8th inning and closing games. Even with Cody Allen in the closer role for the Indians, thinking Miller will be pitching in the 6th inning in the regular season is probably a bit far fetched. With seemingly every bullpen being constructed of a couple of guys who can toss near triple digits on the radar gun, there is no doubt bullpen and starting pitcher usage is beginning to alter. The building of bullpens with shut down arms from the 7-9 innings is starting to creep more onto the scene in baseball, but your teams closer coming into the game consistently in the 7th inning probably won’t be a continuing trend.
Playoff baseball is the best because of the “win or go home” mentality from the managers and is a reason why a pitcher like Aroldis Chapman is trying to get a 6 out save more often than his standard 3 out one. With all the talented arms in baseball that are in the bullpen across the league it should continue to make hitters cringe, but let the starting pitcher do his work in getting the most out of him that he can on any given regular season start. Long life playoff baseball and the differences it has compared to the regular season, but even with bullpens changing in the way they operate, it shouldn’t affect the way mangers go about using them in the regular season.